October 2, 2014

Column: Letter to 2010 graduates

Danedri Thompson

dthompson@gardnernews.com

Danedri Thompson

Dear Graduate,
I have some good news and some bad news for you as you prepare to collect your high school diploma this weekend.
The good news: Other than the piece of paper that declares you a high school graduate, few people will remember or care what you did at GE High.
The bad news: Other than the piece of paper that declares you a high school graduate, few people will remember or care what you did at GE High.
You’ll hear lots of advice as you prepare to become productive members of society. You won’t listen to most of it, including that which I’m about to offer. But, I’m going to tell you the things I wish someone had told me when I collected my GE diploma anyway.
• Most importantly, following Christ will help you avoid a lot of mistakes. Reading your Bible won’t make you perfect, but it provides a pretty handy guidebook for all occasions.
• What you’ve learned in school isn’t all that important. If your teachers taught you what to think, they’ve failed. If they’ve taught you how to think, you should use that skill everyday with reckless abandon. From this day forward, you get to learn what you want rather than what someone tells you need to know.
• Read everything you can get your hands on.
• Don’t be afraid to ask questions, and don’t feel obigated to believe everything you’re told or everything you read. Half of the stuff you learned in textbooks last week may not be true tomorrow. When I was in elementary school, we spent a sliver of time learning that the earth was cooling and a new ice age might be on the horizon. You’ve all been told – repeatedly – that the earth is warming. I don’t know which is true – or if either matters. Read everything, but be very selective about what you believe to be true.
• Don’t waste the pretty.  Do not, I repeat, do not waste time dating someone you know you will never marry. Having a plus-one is seductive, but oh the people you will meet if you’re single.
• Take off the headphones and stop texting for half a second. Talk to the people you’re with in person. Save the tweets for when you’re alone.
• By the way, the most important decision you will likely ever make is who you will marry. Pick the right person, but there’s no hurry.
• Right now is the only time in your life you’ll be able to do exactly what you want with little regard for anyone else. You’re out of your parents’ house and single without children. Take advantage of it. Your time and talents will be spoken for soon enough.
• Exercise. That fly metabolism you’ve got right now, it won’t last. Get in the habit now of going to the gym or taking a daily jog. Just trust me on this one.
• Now is also the first time you’ll really have a chance to choose your friends based on things other than circumstance. Choose wisely.
• Learn to balance your checkbook. Do not acquire massive amounts of debt.
• The dumbest purchase most people ever make is a fancy ride. Drive a beater that’s paid in full.
• There is a very simple equation for not being poor: Get married. Stay married. Don’t have kids until you are married. That is the simplest ticket to the middle class. If you figure out the equation to fabulous wealth, share it — the equation, not the cash — with the rest of us.
• Don’t be afraid to leave home, but don’t be too proud to come back home either.
• Learn from your mistakes, preferably the first time.
• Take responsibility for the things you don’t get right. Share the praise when you do get it right.
• Listen to your elders. They really are smarter than you.

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